To live a happy and content life, we need a method to control our emotions. Without this, our emotions will pull us down and prevent us from feeling positive. Quite often it’s other people that make us unhappy or angry. One method to stop, or reduce, our negative feelings is called Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).
How Autism/Aspergers Affects our Emotions and Ability to Control Them
Autistic/Aspies like us, struggle with our emotions. Most of the time we don’t understand them, and have trouble pinpointing exactly which emotion we are feeling. Because of this we have a build-up of negative emotions, that we keep inside for a long time. We are in deep distress and need to release these feelings, but we (and others around us), don’t realise. Then the emotions become so intense, that we have an outburst (such as shouting, crying or slamming doors) to release them.
Some People will Naturally Dislike you
One of the best books I’ve ever read is all about mind management. It’s titled A Chimp Paradox. One of the many excellent chapters in the book, describes how other people feel about you. Out of any five people you meet in the outside world:
- One person will like you.
- Three will be indifferent (so don’t really have an opinion about you).
- One, of the five, will not like you. And most of the time there is nothing you can do to change this.
In the workplace you could easily interact with twenty five people. So, using this generalisation, five of them will not like you. In addition they probably never will. That is their choice, and it’s absolutely fine they feel this way.
The key thing to remember is, do not waste your time and effort, trying to change them (it’s almost impossible). Accept they do not like you, and try to interact with them as little as possible. The times you do interact with them, by choice or necessity, be aware that they may be out to hurt you.
How Other People Can Make You Unhappy
You probably don’t realise just how powerful people’s words can be. I never understood, until I studied NLP. Then it became crystal clear. There were a number of days where I would go to work, full of happiness and feeling really positive about my life. Then one person would say a few negative words, and it made me feel really unhappy and depressed for the rest of the day.
People, with their words, have this enormous power to affect you in such a drastic way.
Men and women hurt other people in different ways.
In general, men hurt by using physical violence. They use obvious attacks such as hitting, pushing, barging and shouting. Then more subtle ones such as: frowns, snarls, false banter, fist clenching, showing teeth or invading personal space. They can use words to attack such as swearing and name calling, but it’s easy to identify. The only time it might be difficult to spot a male bullying, is when they falsely befriend you.
Women tend to hurt others using words, and the actions these words cause. A typical female cannot overpower a typical male physically. So they use psychology (whether consciously or unconsciously) in order to exert some control over both males and females. They are masters at this skill and have practised it over decades. From the moment they start school (at the age of about 4) until their current age.
Usually the subtle actions hurt the most. It hurts even more if they convince you that you’re friends, then they make you unhappy intentionally. You may not even realise they are out to hurt you, until it is too late. But just knowing this, arms and defends your emotions. Here are a few techniques they use:
- Talk behind your back
- Excluding you from the group (either obviously or subtlety)
- Indirect bullying
- Spreading rumours about you, to other people (true or false).
- Telling people your personal information.
- Taking the credit for something that you did.
- Whispering in groups in front of you. Then pointing and/or laughing at you.
All of these things, and more, are designed to affect your feelings. If they succeed in this then they win (it’s just a game). Just remember you are in control of how you feel. Using Neuro Linguistic Programming can help you to win in these little battles. Until they know that what they say cannot affect you. Then they eventually don’t bother trying.
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
NLP is a technique that recognises that we, as humans, have a learnt behaviour. We build up this automatic belief over time. It only takes something to happen to us a few times, with the same outcome. Then we believe whenever this occurs again, the outcome will always be the same. Often for the rest of our lives.
It is very much like a computer or a robot. When a button is pressed, the computer (which is your brain) will always perform the same result. These actions are programmed into us, and learnt over our lives.
NLP teaches us to recognise that we respond automatically to many events in our lives. We can control this. Instead of having an instant automated response, we can teach our brains to respond in the way that we want them to. If a person says nasty and hurtful things to us, then we can learn to shut off from it.
NLP and How our Memories are Stored
I’ve read several books, and book chapter’s, about NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). One I really recommend is “How to take charge of your life – the user’s guide to NLP.” As it provides some amazing NLP techniques. The book is just over 100 pages long, so short and easy to read. But it’s much better than this single web page could ever be. One of the techniques from this book is summarised and adapted below.
We all have lots of negative experiences from the past. Such as being bullied or hearing a hurtful comment made about ourselves. All of these events are stored in our brain. Some recent and some really old. These memories are stored as pictures or videos. Where you can replay over and over again. By being autistic/Aspie we’re likely to play these videos or images back more than most people.
One Basic NLP Technique to Control Your Feelings
Cast your mind back to a time from your past where you experienced another person saying something hurtful to you. This will be stored in your mind as an image, or video with sound. Really focus on this memory.
When you replay what was being said, it will probably be loud. When you replay what you saw, it will probably be in bright colours and large. All of these past experiences are catalogued in your brain this way. Ready for you to access as frequently or infrequently as you desire.
We can alter all of these bad or hurtful videos and images so they have less of an effect on us. Below are the steps how:
- Replay the experience (your memory) again in your mind, and notice all of the sounds.
- Whilst replaying the video, imagine you’re very gradually turning the volume down. Until it is totally silent. This should instantly make you feel better.
- Then you will notice all the bright and bold colours in the video. Change them to be black and white.
- Then imagine you’re watching the scene back on an old black and white TV.
- Then slowly make the TV smaller and smaller. Until you can barely see it.
- Finally push the screen back away from you, until it’s in the distance.
- If needed, repeat this several times.
I have used this technique on a large amount of my bad memories from the past. It certainly worked for me.
In the same book written by Richard Bandler. He said that you can do the opposite for the good times you have. Make these videos louder, with punchy colour and increase the size. This will make them much more intense. When I tried it, I could genuinely feel my happiness levels increase.
This is just one of the many NLP techniques you can try, to take control of your thoughts and feelings. There are many more in NLP books. Which I tend to borrow from my local library.
Being Paranoid or Misreading a Situation
It’s worth noting that being autistic/Aspie can occasionally mean you read situations wrong. You may feel like you’re being bullied or excluded, but in reality things aren’t the way you think they are. In a way, you can be over paranoid.
In reality your friends may still like you a lot, but might find one aspect of you irritating or unusual. Or they’re just having a prank/joke/laugh that has gone a bit wrong or out of control.
Unless it is blatantly obvious, there could be a chance that things may not be what they seem to you. Remember nobody has got the power to read minds. By being autistic/Aspie we normally read body language incorrectly as well. So if you’re uncertain, give the benefit of the doubt as much as you can. Especially if the price is as high as losing a best friend.
I’ve unfortunately lost a few good friends by misreading situations.
Book: How to take charge of your life – the user’s guide to NLP, written by Richard Bandler
Book: The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness, written by Professor Steve Peters.